By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC
A good friend, who also is a good father, husband and benefactor, came to visit for the usual Christmas wishes. He asked me what I was reading. I told him I was trying to read the letters of St. Paul, taking up the theme of prayer in his letters. He was in a talking mood and continued saying that he loved the Jubilee Year of Mercy for its themes of fasting and almsgiving. However, he added that he had difficulties with prayer. “The Hail Marys and Our Fathers have become meaningless. Mass, including the homily, is boring. I keep hearing that we need to pray more, but I fail to pray.”
We all are struggling to pray until we learn what prayer really is. We need to reflect on the essential role of the Holy Spirit for those who wish to communicate with God.
Prayer is not a fruit of human effort, but a gift, the fruit of the living, vivifying presence of the Father of Jesus Christ in us. We, the believers, have the human desire for prayer. We want to pray, but God is far off, we do not have the words, the language, to speak with God, nor even the thought to do so. We can only open ourselves, place our time at God’s disposal; wait for Him to help us to enter into true dialogue. St. Paul says: this very lack of words, this absence of words, yet this desire to enter into contact with God, is prayer that the Holy Spirit not only understands, but brings and interprets before God. This very weakness of ours, through the Holy Spirit, becomes true prayer, true contact with God. The Holy Spirit is the interpreter who makes us, and God, understand what it is we wish to say. Prayer brings us to understand that we are weak, poor creatures. And the more we advance in listening and in dialogue with God, the more we also perceive the measure of our limitations, not only in the face of the concrete situations of everyday life, but also in our relationship with the Lord.
It is the Holy Spirit who helps our inability, who enlightens our minds and warms our hearts, guiding us as we turn to God. Prayer is above all the work of the Holy Spirit in our humanity. He takes our weakness and transforms us from men bound to material realities into spiritual men, when we allow the Spirit of Christ, and not the spirit of the world, to work in us as the interior principle of all our actions.
Prayer animated by the Spirit enables us to abandon and to overcome every form of fear and slavery, and so to experience the true freedom of the children of God.
We then come to understand that, through prayer, we are not delivered from trials or sufferings, but we are able to live them in union with Christ, with His sufferings, and participating also in His glory. Prayer, sustained by the Spirit of Christ who speaks in our interior depths, never remains closed in upon itself, it is never only prayer for me; rather, it opens out to a sharing in the suffering of our time, of others. It becomes intercession for others, and thus freedom for me; a channel of hope for all creation and the expression of that love of God, which has been poured into our hearts through the Spirit who has been given to us. And this is a sign of true prayer, that it does not end in ourselves, but opens out to others and so liberates me, and so helps in the redemption of the world.
Dear confreres, we have a treasure in our faith and in our heart: the power of prayer. We need to enter in communion with the Holy Spirit and He will teach us how to love Jesus the Redeemer and the Holy Spirit the Sanctifier. I wish all of you a Happy New Year, a year when, accompanied by the Spirit we can discover what an incredible treasure the power of the Spirit is in our souls, our Order and all believers.